Jon Dadi Bodvarsson started his second consecutive league game alongside Yann Kermorgant up front for Reading and Stam’s persistence with two strikers paid dividends as the Icelandic international scored two of Reading’s goals in their 3-1 win over Burton. Bodvarsson gave Reading the lead after 20 minutes, firing home a Leandro Bacuna cross and ensured the victory was sealed as he added the third after Chris Gunter restored the Royals’ lead just six minutes on from Burton’s equalising penalty. While Bodvarsson had not scored in his previous league start, he was once again given the chance after coming into the team following an FA Cup hattrick against Stevenage and it will be massively encouraging to Reading fans that Bodvarsson looks to be continuously getting in good goal scoring positions.
Chris Gunter scored his first goal in over a year with a strike that allowed Reading to retake the lead on Tuesday night. It was a superb effort from the full-back with his weak foot and what was truly telling was his celebration. Gunter ran straight to manager Jaap Stam to celebrate with him in a gesture that must have been hugely appreciated by the Dutchman. The Royals boss has been under huge pressure in recent months with results being massively lacklustre and many fans calling for him to be sacked, with some even going as far as to start a petition asking for his sacking which, as of writing, has received 136 signatures. Any worries however that Stam had lost the dressing room with the recent bad run of form seem to have been allayed by Gunter’s public show of support for his manager. It certainly seems the players, Gunter at least, are still behind the boss.
Three goals in one game!
The 3-1 victory at Burton was the first time Reading have put three goals past a team in nearly two months, with the last instance being the 3-0 win over 10-man Sunderland on December 2nd. While that is not necessarily a huge amount of time in footballing terms, the more worrying statistic is that it was the first league win for the Royals since that game – nine fixtures ago! In that time, they have dropped a mammoth 21 points and with that terrible run of form including a 2-1 loss in the reverse fixture at home to bottom of the table Burton it meant that this game was truly a must win fixture for the Royals. It has to give fans some heart that in a game where losing was really not an option for Reading not only did they win, they won by a comfortable margin. Whether the result has put an end to the bad run of form is yet to be seen but its at least a good start.
Former Bournemouth captain Tommy Elphick made his Reading debut in the match as a second half substitute following his earlier loan signing from Aston Villa. The 30-year-old centre-back replaced Sone Aluko and allowed for a system change with Stam opting to switch from four at the back to three with Gunter and Bacuna operating as wing-backs. Elphick nearly opened his scoring account for the Royals as well with an effort from a corner going just over the bar but he looked comfortable slotting in alongside Liam Moore and Tiago Ilori which is exactly what you want to see from a new signing.
5 at the back?
Whether the change in system was simply a tactical decision made just for the Burton game or Stam trying it out in preparation of using it more often remains to be seen but personally I think it would be a good idea. Gunter plays in the wing-back role for Wales and Bacuna was used predominantly as a winger towards the end of his spell at Aston Villa so both are obviously well suited going forward and of course three centre backs should help the Royals shore up defensively which can only be a good thing. Although Jordan Obita is not expected to feature again this season, a wing-back role as opposed to a more conventional full-back role would suit him as well for next season considering he began his career as a winger. All in all I hope Stam persists with five at the back because it should ensure Reading are better defensively as well as giving the full-backs more attacking licence which can only be of benefit.